The 10 Don’ts of Overland Vehicle Modification

1. Avoid a roof load if possible. – Pack smart and use available space in the rear footwell, under the front seats, etc. If a roof rack is used, it should only be for storing lightweight and bulky items like bedding and clothing. Despite the limitless images of vehicles with 10 fuel cans strapped to the rack, it is not a best practice.


2. Don’t make serious equipment purchases at Walmart or Home Depot. – The 4” sewer pipe might look like the ultimate solution for deep water fording or a rack mounted hygiene solution, but its not – ever. Can-Am-Commander-GorillaAxle-1

3. Don’t modify the engine. More specifically, take the K&N filter and billet muffler bearings off your Christmas list. An engine will provide maximum reliability and serviceability when left stock. Avoid the urge to install superchargers, complex ignition systems and computer modifications. There are few proven exceptions to this and horsepower is rarely the solution to a technical terrain challenge.


4. Never use spring rate to achieve lift (height), and never use spring length to achieve load capacity. Buy the right spring for the job, and keep increased height to 60mm or less, unless terrain conditions demand it.

5. Just because everyone else it doing it, doesn’t mean you should – There are many trends in 4wd modifications that are purely for show or some narrow application, yet they become commonplace. The “stinger” bumper and “street lock” wheels are a perfect example of this trend


6. Don’t compromise safety. Avoid shortcuts or modifications that notably affect safety. Some modifications provide benefit in such rare scenarios that the cost to safety, handling and driveability are not worth the risk. Huge roof loads, visibility-robbing obstructions and poorly designed suspensions can result in an immediate and deadly end to trip of a lifetime.


7. Minimize distractions. Despite the overwhelming urge to have a GPS, laptop, DVD player, camera system, iPod and text messaging all operating while driving through Istanbul, distracted driving could introduce you to the joys of the Turkish prison system


8. Don’t buy a CB – It will just prove to be a source of frustration and bad communications. You are better off with smoke signals. “come-in Candy Cane”

9. Don’t Exceed GVWR. Leave the floor jack at home and don’t install a jungle gym (i.e. external roll cage) on the outside of your XJ. People have lived for years off the contents of a backpack. Run under max payload and enjoy the simplicity and rewards of traveling light.

10. Don’t put lipstick on a pig. Buy the right vehicle for the job and keep things simple. No matter how much money you spend on a Ford Explorer, it will never perform like a Jeep Wrangler in technical terrain, and no matter how much sound deadening and leather you install in a Defender it will never be a G-Wagen. Enjoy the vehicle for what it is designed to do and buy the right truck for your needs and performance expectations.

lipstick on a pig. . .

Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and include three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar travels include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. He lives in Prescott, Arizona IG: @scott.a.brady Twitter: @scott_brady